Putting aside Barack Obama for a second, where are the Republicans on the debt limit talks right now? We know Mitch McConnell’s position, essentially a surrender. But with the spending cuts and commission processes tacked onto it, it starts to look like a surrender in the other direction. No matter, though: Jim DeMint will work to oppose it:
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) on Friday said he would use “every tool” available to stop Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) fall-back proposal for the debt-ceiling negotiations.
“I’ll use every tool in Senate to stop passage of ‘Plan B’ blank check debt limit increase,” DeMint said on Twitter.
“No Republican was elected to give President Obama more power and that’s what this plan does,” he added.
So DeMint can filibuster. Big deal: everyone expected a filibuster anyway. I think there would be 60 votes for this kind of maneuver.
The House is a bigger stumbling block, since John Boehner controls the calendar. To get his far-right base off his back, he is now going to force a symbolic vote on a balanced budget amendment that has no chance of passing.
Scores of House Republicans say they won’t vote to raise the debt limit unless a Constitutional balanced budget amendment has been sent off to the states for ratification. And so whatever Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and other Congressional leaders decide about the real path ahead, he’ll hold votes next week on a major spending cut and spending cap plan that includes a hike in the debt ceiling, and, separately, on a balanced budget amendment. The latter would require a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate and, in its current form, stands little chance of passing either chamber.
The votes themselves will put some political pressure on Democrats to support the nominally popular balanced budget amendment, and will allow Republicans to claim they voted to raise the debt limit in the event that the government runs out of borrowing authority. But the so-called “cut, cap, and balance” approach is dead on arrival in the Senate.
Boehner even said in a press conference today “Let’s get through that vote and then we’ll make decisions about what will come after,” already assuming that something will have to come after. But there’s only a week or so to get that done, so why waste everyone’s time?
Meanwhile, the rump faction in the GOP, increasingly the entire party, thinks that just making decisions on who to pay is a solid solution to the crisis. Putting aside that this is unconstitutional and wouldn’t stop default, a couple things. First, the people who don’t want to give the President more power would essentially give him a line-item veto on all spending policies? What if he cut off federal aid on all projects in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho? Second, the math is such that almost nothing could be spent on any policy of the federal government beyond the priorities laid out here. We’d have an army, and Social Security, and Medicare. That would be it.
In case you were wondering why the Administration would feel the need to politely ask Wall Street not to make such a big thing out of default, this would be the reason.